Two nights ago, to everyone’s surprise, the premiere of a Big Sean track called “Control” turned hip-hop on its head. It wasn’t Big Sean’s work or a rare guest spot by Jay Electronica that had everyone talking; instead, it was a instant classic verse by Kendrick Lamar where the good kid, M.A.A.D. city rapper lightly Ether’d every rapper he had collaborated with in the past few years, from “Poetic Justice” buddy Drake to fellow “1 Train” rider A$AP Rocky to tour mate Tyler, the Creator. He even called out Jay Electronica on a song that featured Jay Electronica. K-Dot’s concise message: He’s the best, his peers are weak, he’s gonna steal their fans, they better up their game. As with most beefs, the entire hip-hop community fired back loudly and quickly.
“Control” responses are pouring in faster than YouTube can upload them. Dozens of verses have popped up, and the “Control” aftershock is so far-ranging that even rappers that weren’t called out by Kendrick are hopping on the beat and answering Kendrick. Peers like Lupe Fiasco, B.o.B, King Los and Cassidy have all Soundclouded their own “Control” verses. Some responses are better than others but each at least finds the rapper involved upping their game. “You ain’t Nas, you ain’t Jay Z, you will respect me,” Fiasco tells Lamar on “SLR 2,” while Cassidy boasts, “I know you would like to see me battle whoever but that’s like getting Mayweather to fight for free.”
One of Lamar’s more contentious lyrics — that the Compton rapper is the new “King of New York” — has resulted in five boroughs MCs like Joell Ortiz, Mickey Factz and Fred the Godson firing back as well. Even comedian Kevin Hart got in on the fun. However, at press time, none of the rappers named by Lamar in “Control” have posted a song to retaliate.
Surprisingly, one of the East Coast’s strongest “Control” responses comes from New York Knicks point guard and flattop extraordinaire Iman Shumpert, who shows off his rhyme prowess on a verse that both praises and remarks on Lamar (“K-Dot, shot out to you for this, kid. . .get a stool and an apple juice for this, kid.”) while also declaring his own music career’s arrival. And like Lamar, Shump also name-checks legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson in his track.
Meanwhile, many of hip-hop’s elder statesmen like Ice T, Bun B and Missy Elliott have praised Kendrick for his verse and his attempt to invigorate what has become a stagnant, too amiable rap scene.
“I love how ONE verse woke Hip Hop the FUCK up. It’s been a LONG time since people talked about ANYTHING someone said in their rhyme,” Ice T tweeted. “I’m sure there’s gonna be a lot of replies and diss tracks. Don’t trip. It’s just Hip Hop.”
Expect this artistic beef to last through the summer, or until someone records a verse incredible enough to quiet Kendrick.